A distinguishing feature of globalization in the 21st century is the proliferation of cultural commodities sourced from Asia. In the post-WWII period, with the exception of Hong Kong, entertainment industries in Asia were inward looking, growing on the strength of their domestic markets. Clearly, this is no longer the case. “Content” generated in different parts of Asia is widely dispersed in a range of languages across the entire region and beyond. This development is coeval with the increased economic importance of cultural production and consumption in today’s world. Further, governments and inter-governmental forums alike appear to be convinced that culture is a valuable and inexhaustible resource, which can be drawn upon to bootstrap national economies out of recession or underdevelopment.
The almost-excessive familiarity of consumers with mass culture sourced from Asia is not accompanied by a corresponding growth in the academic engagement with these very forms and the industries that produce them. Available models for comparative studies of Asian contexts and data-driven approaches to culture industries do not pay adequate attention to the materiality of cultural objects as also their social and political significance. To take stock of the emerging context and identify its challenges, Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), Bangalore, organized an international conference on “Asian Culture Industries: A Comparative Study of India, Japan and South Korea” (Bangalore, December 21-22, 2010, www.asiancultureindustries.org/the-concept/). The term “culture industries” was chosen over “entertainment-” or “content industries” to foreground the critical and theoretical issues that surface with the mass production of cultural commodities. The conference brought together researchers based in different parts of Asia who were engaged in mapping the inter-Asia flows of cultural commodities and capital; critical analyses of national cultural policies and historical studies of specific national contexts. The papers gathered in this section represent only a third of the presentations made at the conference. For reasons beyond my control, India is the focus of all but one of them. Notwithstanding the narrow focus, they reflect on the key questions discussed at the conference.
S.V. Srinivas is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore. He has a Ph.D. from University of Hyderabad. His research interests include cultural and creative industries and comparative studies in popular culture. He has published papers on Indian and Hong Kong cinemas and is the author of Megastar (Oxford University Press, 2009). His book on south Indian star politicians, Politics as Performance, is forthcoming in 2013 (Permanent Black).